Andrew Luck replaced Peyton Manning with the Indianapolis Colts, and it looked like Luck's career would mirror that of Manning's for a while. Luck was spectacular his first three seasons and didn't miss a game. The Colts finished 11-5 in each of those years and won the AFC South. They also progressed one round in the playoffs every season: losing the wild-card game in 2012, in the divisional round in 2013 and the AFC title game in 2014 (OK, last time I ever type this: the Deflategate game vs. the Patriots).
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Unfortunately, things haven't worked out well for Luck since - and much of the blame must go to former GM Ryan Grigson as he failed to build a competent offensive line or running game around Luck. He suffered a lacerated kidney, among other injuries, in playing only seven games in 2015 as Indy slid to 8-8. Luck did play in 15 last year but was bothered by a shoulder issue and the Colts were again 8-8.
Grigson was deservedly fired and replaced by highly-respected NFL scout & personnel man Chris Ballard, who was most recently with the Chiefs. Frankly, Ballard might be the Kansas City GM right now if he had stuck around since the Chiefs shockingly fired John Dorsey recently, but that's another story.
I have no idea what to think of the 2017 Colts because Luck had surgery on his throwing shoulder back in January and missed every OTA, minicamp, etc. We are about three weeks from training camp and Luck hasn't started throwing yet. That's obviously a huge concern. Luck says he's not worried and that rehab is going well. He's a veteran so he doesn't really need camp, but still. New guys need to get in sync with him. The Colts begin training camp at Anderson University on July 26. If you are wondering, Luck's backup is Scott Tolzien. Yikes! Why not go sign Colin Kaepernick as insurance?
Indianapolis was 4-4 on the road last season, 4-3-1 against the spread and 7-1 "over/under." The Colts travel to just two playoff teams this year: Seattle and Houston. Only two likely cold-weather outdoor games, which is always a good thing for a dome team. I'd say the road slate is slightly tougher than the home one. I project a 3-5 record assuming Luck is healthy and plays them all. I wouldn't pick Indy to win any road games he doesn't play. Odds listed for the home team.
Sept. 10 at Rams (+3, 48): The Colts have started 0-2 three straight years - if they lose this one to the offensively inept Rams, hot-seat Coach Chuck Pagano might not make it to October. The last time the Colts played the Rams in Los Angeles was Sept. 17, 1989, when Luck was 2. Matchup of No. 1 overall picks between Luck and Jared Goff (still can't believe he went No. 1). Key betting trend: Colts 10-0 SU & 7-3 ATS in past 10 as September road favorites of at least 3 points.
Oct. 1 at Seahawks (-7): Sunday night. I can see Indy being 3-0 heading to the Pacific Northwest by winning in L.A. and then beating visiting Arizona and Cleveland. Seattle is the only opponent in the first eight games overall that made the playoffs a year ago. Luck and fellow 2012 draftee Russell Wilson have met once: a 34-28 Colts road win in 2013. Key betting trend: Colts 5-5 ATS in past 10 as road dog of at least 7 points.
Oct. 16 at Titans (-3): Monday night, with Indy off a home game vs. San Francisco the previous Sunday.Luck has led the Colts to comeback wins in their past two trips to Tennessee. The Colts have won 11 straight against the Titans. It was 34-26 in Week 7 last year. Luck threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jack Doyle with 1:55 left to put Indianapolis ahead to stay. Luck threw for 353 yards and three TDs. Key betting trend:Colts 4-4 ATS all-time as road dog in series.
Oct. 29 at Bengals (-3): Colts come off a Week 7 home game vs. Jacksonville. These two teams also play their preseason finale against one another in Indy. Think that will be a vanilla gameplan on each side? The Colts have won nine of their last 11 games over the Bengals in the regular season. Key betting trend: Colts 3-7 ATS in past 10 at AFC North teams.
Nov. 5 at Texans (-3): The Colts had a three-game winning streak in Houston snapped last year in devastating fashion, blowing a 14-point lead in the final five minutes and falling in 26-23 overtime. Frank Gore had a rare 100-yard running game for Indy over the past few years with 106 on 22 carries. Key betting trend: Colts have been a road dog just four times in series and are 1-2-1 ATS.
Dec. 3 at Jaguars (+1): Indy hosts Tennessee the previous Sunday. The Jaguars have won their last two home games over the Colts. That's counting last year in London, a 30-27 Jacksonville victory that dropped Indy to 1-3 and put Pagano on the hot seat. Luck led the Colts on three fourth-quarter touchdown drives to lead a big rally but all for naught. Key betting trend: Colts 6-4 ATS in past 10 as road favorite in series.
Dec. 10 at Bills (-1.5): Here's your first sure cold-weather outdoor game.The Colts have won seven of their last nine meetings with the Bills. Indy opened the 2015 season there but lost 27-14. Luck finished 26 of 49 for 243 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Key betting trend: Colts 4-6 ATS in past 10 at AFC East teams.
Dec. 23 at Ravens (-3): And here's your likely other cold-weather game. Colts will be on extra rest after hosing Denver on Thursday in Week 15. Pagano was an assistant under Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh from 2008-11 and Pagano returns to Baltimore in the regular season for the first time. Indy did play there in the 2013 wild-card game, a 24-9 loss. Key betting trend: Colts 5-5 ATS in past 10 as December road dog of at least 3 points.
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